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McCollum Leads Blazers Past Pacers To Start Season With Back-To-Back Wins

by Cody Sharrett

Through two games in the very young 2017-18 season, the Portland Trail Blazers (2-0) have outscored opponents by a combined 66 points, following Friday evening’s 114-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers (1-1) in front of 15,325 fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. 

In his season debut after missing Wednesday’s opener, CJ McCollum poured in 28 points to lead all scorers on an efficient 12-of-18 night from the field and three-of-four behind the three-point arc.

"He was great, he was unreal, especially in the third quarter," said Evan Turner of McCollum. "He went on a huge run by himself. It was great to watch and we needed it most importantly. It was a great team win, and we need these road wins."

McCollum’s backcourt mate Damian Lillard scored 18 points to go with seven assists and seven rebounds, while Evan Turner put up 17 points off the bench. Al-Farouq Aminu recorded a double-double of 16 points and 16 rebounds in a team-high 34 minutes of work. 

“(Aminu) got a lot of length, good timing," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "He’s a different type of rebounder, those two things let him always be in the mix. You have guys who hold people off or go after it, he uses his timing, quickness and length.”

For the Pacers, Victor Oladipo and rookie TJ Leaf each scored 17 points to lead Indiana. Guard Darren Collison finished with 14 points, four assists and four rebounds.

The fist quarter saw the Blazers out to a 31-25 advantage after the opening 12 minutes, led by Lillard’s 10 points and four assists in the period. Portland extended its lead to double digits at halftime, anchored by Turner’s 13 second-quarter points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field to put his team up at the break. Continuing to build on their defensive form from Wednesday’s season opener in Phoenix, the Blazers held Indiana to just 22% shooting from three-point range on nine attempts from deep. 

"Our defense held up," said Turner. "As compared to last year, we kept the lead. We stayed tough in our mind and were mentally into it. Once again, a great team win. The biggest thing we take from this is confidence on the defensive end. That’s a huge part right now. We just kept guarding and just kept talking."

While the Pacers would pull within six during the early moments of the second half, Portland pulled ahead to an 18-point advantage at 91-73 going into the final period thanks to McCollum’s 14 points in the third on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. The visiting Blazers closed the door in the fourth, thanks to Aminu’s stifling defensive work and persistent rebounding. 

Up next, the Blazers face their first back-to-back of the season, traveling to Milwaukee to face the Bucks on Saturday. The Pacers visit the Miami Heat on Saturday evening.